How to choose a Home Inspector in the phoenix metro area
Many consumers believe that all home inspectors are licensed and trained. Nothing could be further from the truth. Caveat Emptor. Arizona’s Home Inspector requirements are listed at www.btr.state.az.us or simply click on the blue and grey logo on the right side of this page.
There are huge differences between Phoenix area home inspectors. Like all professions or trades, the majority are rather mediocre. A small percentage are spectacularly bad. An even smaller percentage are very, very good. You want one of the the good ones. Your home is often the largest investment of your life. Take some time to make sure you are hiring someone you can trust to do an excellent job and to look out for your interests above all others.
A referral from a friend or co-worker is good place to start. But you should still do a little more homework before choosing an inspector.
Many buyers rely on a referral from their agent, and many agents are truly looking out for their clients best interest, however there are some that are more interested in making sure this deal does not fall apart. My advice is to trust your agent but verify the inspectors qualifications before you hire them.
Many agents categorize inspectors into three groups:
- The home inspectors they recommend when it’s their listing. These are the guys with poor eyesight and dull pencils.
- The home inspectors they recommend when they’re acting as buyer’s agents.
- The home inspectors they recommend to their relatives. This is the home inspector you want. He’s the one they recommend when a friend or relative is buying a home.
This may be the only business where the referring marketplace punishes those who do the best job!
Of course not every agent is waiting to take advantage of you, there are certainly ethical agents who want their clients to get the best inspection possible. If you are comfortable with your agent, by all means listen to their advice. But you still might want to use the following list of questions to make sure your making the right decision.
Check with the Better Business Bureau for unresolved complaints. You might also want to check with your local court system for judgments entered against the company. Try searching Google.com for “Judgment” and your County name.
Here’s a list of questions you can use to make sure you are hiring a qualified home inspector.
- How long have you been in business?
Experience counts in this business. There is no substitute. Don’t hire anyone who’s been in business for less than five years. On the other hand, there are inspectors who have been around for years who do a crummy job. With no training and no continuing education, they often don’t realize how sub-standard they are.
- Are you licensed as a home inspector?
If your state requires licensing, this is a no-brainer. There are inspectors out there operating illegally that used to be state certified but did not renew their license.
- Do you have any other qualifications?
Most good inspectors have other credentials, such as a contractors license or certification from a Building Code Organization.
- Do you have any formal training?
The majority of home inspectors don’t. Most of us get formal training at weekend seminars or conferences. Good home inspectors sit through more than 50 hours of educational sessions each year.
- What did you do before you got into the home inspection business?
A background in construction or engineering is preferable. The more experience your inspector has, the better. Avoid someone who was selling shoes or doughnuts last year.
- Will you be doing my home inspection personally?
Make sure you know who will be doing your inspection. You want the someone experienced, not a trainee.
- What Associations do you belong to?
If your home inspector doesn’t belong to a home inspection association, he’s operating in his own little world of limited knowledge and experience. ASHI (The American Society of Home Inspectors) is the oldest and most respected home inspection association. ASHI members agree to inspect to a recognized Standard of Practice and agree to adhere to a Code of Ethics. ASHI members must also get a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education every year. Don’t even think of hiring someone who’s not a member of ASHI. Learn more about ASHI here.
Don’t be confused by “certifications” sold by trade organizations. Many require nothing more than a check. I know of two dogs that became certified home inspectors in a different international home inspector association.
- What Standard do you use for inspecting?
Many uneducated inspectors don’t use any recognized standard of practice. The ASHI Standard of Practice are the most widely recognized. Your state may have it’s own standard. You’ll find it’s based upon the ASHI Standards or it is the ASHI Standards. Other home inspection organizations have standards of practice. Most of these parallel the ASHI Standards.
- How long will the Home inspection take?
There’s no one right answer to this question. Each inspection is different. Older or larger homes take longer. Homes on slabs are easier than homes with crawl spaces. At minimum, any home will take 2.5 to 3.5 hours of time to perform the inspection and write the report. We sometimes spend 5 or 6 hours on a larger or older home.
- Can I attend the home inspection with you?
Make sure your inspector allows you to attend the inspection. If not, be wary. Being at the inspection and seeing the problems will greatly increase your understanding of the problems. I tell clients if you attend the entire inspection you may know more about the home you are buying than the home you live in now. If you can not be there for the entire inspection try to be there for the last 30 minutes so the inspector can show you the issues and you can ask questions.
- Can I see a sample home inspection report?
Looking at a sample report is the single best method of comparing home inspectors. Much of what we do involves written communication. The report is the work product of the inspector. Make sure it’s in a well organized format you can understand. Be sure it all makes sense. If the inspector is reluctant to show you a sample of his work, run.
- Do you take photographs?
The most advanced inspectors take digital photos of defects and print them. Photos make it easier for everyone to understand the problem. Especially when the problem is where you can’t get to it. Like the roof or the crawl space.
- Do you perform re-inspections?
A re-inspection is typically done after the buyer (or their bank) has requested repairs and the seller states the repairs have been performed. It is a way for the buyer to verify that what the sellers said was repaired actually was. Too many times I have seen sellers get estimates for repairs, write Paid on the bottom of the estimate and give it to the buyer as proof of repairs. Click here to see our re-inspection policy
- How much do you charge?
Fees vary widely. You’ll find that inspectors who have been around a long time and do a good job tend to charge more. It’s like anything else. You get what you pay for. In fact, you can probably judge the skill level of the inspector by the price he charges. And in this case, you want the best, not the cheapest. Some real estate contracts require the seller to repair defects found during the inspection. Missing even one of these defects will end up costing you money. Need more convincing? Think about this. If O. J. Simpson had hired the cheapest attorney he could find, do you think he would be out playing golf, a free man?